I really wanted to like this even more, as it is it’s a pretty good flick with a lot of in-theory-pluses, but doesn’t come through on quite enough of them to elevate it more.
The potential pluses include:
1 – A solid cast.
2 – Sam Raimi in the big boy chair.
3 – A supernatural story.
4 – Katie Holmes unleashing the “Cruise missiles” at last.
1 – First the cast: The “Good” – Cate Blanchett, Greg Kinnear, The “They’ll do” – Keanu Reeves, Hillary Swank, Giovanni Ribisi and the “Maybe she’ll get ’em out?”, Katie Holmes.
2 – Sam Raimi almost goes back to his roots of horror with this one, I love when he does straight horror, but he is a very fine director of so callled mainstream films as well, moreso when ignoring the Spiderman series. He doesn’t seem to worry about the studios or the box office as much, and allows his creativity free reign.
3 – I love good supernatural stuff. The plot of The Gift revolves around the disappearance of a young woman from a small backwoods town in the US, and how the various townsfolk are somehow involved or impacted.
The primary character is Cate Blanchett as a hard working, penniless mother of three named Annie, who happens to have eerily accurate visions of the future. The strength of Cate in the role is that she is a good actress and makes some of the later visions a little more credible than they might otherwise be, and she also has no issue with wearing some of the dodgiest tracky dacks ever seen on TV.
Annie gives readings for many local people, including several regulars who fortunately are professional actors, Giovanni Ribisi as Buddy and Hillary Swank as Valerie among them. Valerie has the good fortune of being married to full blown ignorant redneck Donnie, played with spotty-bearded abandon by Canoe Reeves. Donnie has no issue with threatening Annie for urging Valerie to leave him, and obviously does a lot worse to Valerie behind closed doors.
Buddy is a local bloke working at a dinky mechanics workshop, he is obviously a very troubled individual with serious inner demons and wears his insecurity on his sleeve. As Annie seems to be the only person who believes in him and takes an interest in his affairs Buddy sees her as somewhat of a personal saint.
As mentioned Annie has three young kids, is a widow and doesn’t appear to have a high disposable income (see trackie dacks) so her girl buddy drags her out for a rare evening of relaxation at the local lodge. There they encounter local school principal Wayne, played by Greg Kinnear, and his partner Jessica, played by Katie Holmes.
Annie and Wayne seem to take a shine to each other, which is unfortunate as he is engaged to Jessica. Annie also finds out over the course of the evening that young Jessie is somewhat the local slut and Wayne appears oblivious to her saucy fraternising.
Anyway so Annie gets home to pick up the boys from the babysitter and finds out someone was in the house doing menacing things. She immediately assumes that it was Donnie following up with some of his earlier threats.
The morning comes and it comes to light that Jessie has gone missin’ the night previous. Her father and Wayne, and a local cop (who is more than a little sceptical) consult Annie for a reading, which initially fails due to distractions. The remainder of the film takes a great many twists and turns on the way to clarifying what happened to Jessica and who is ultimately responsible.
Among the red herrings and dead ends are many of the signature Sam Raimi “LOUD” moments, indicating things or bad guys may or may not be there, the suspicion and blame of prominent characters, and Buddy has a couple of memorable moments that help to illustrate his insanity.
The ending was a little preposterous and hokey, it almost appeared that they run out of interest and just tacked on a “that’ll do” ending to get the film in the can. In any case it was less than satisfying and a little disappointing seeing as how things were developing nicely for a while.
4 – And Katie gets her tits out in a flashback. Without doubt her finest acting moment.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Worth a look, a surprisingly low key effort from Sam with a couple of gonzo performances from Ribisi and Reeves.